Declutter your garden
Clutter happens. We live our lives, see things we love, buy, use,store,stuff and shove them into the closet. Life accumulates, but it’s hard to have clarity in the midst of chaos that’s clutter! I know because I’m a hoarder but I’m not the only one clinging to what is not needed or useful. We bought it, paid good money for it, so we are sure not going to face up to that mistake, not us! to simply throw it away. Chances are you are like me and we all get to the point that there is a place for de-cluttering. Once in a while a purge feels good.
A Japanese organizing consultant Marie Kondo published a book: The life changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of De cluttering and Organizing, which made her a world authoritative voice on how to tidy up. Marie Kondo’s organizing tips and philosophy of defining your possessions by the sparks of joy, they give us and keeping only objects that spark joy, made her one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2015. It literarily sparked a worldwide home-decluttering craze. But what about gardens?
“ The best way to choose what to keep and what to throw away is to take each item in one’s hand and ask, “ Does this spark joy?” if it does, Keep it. If not, dispose of it”- Marie kondo.Her method is simple and ruthless, the results can be deeply restorative.
Gardens are places where we live also. They are our sanctuary, they should be places of stillness that calm our minds and give us peace after a long day in the hurly-burly rat race. Gardens are integral parts of our homes. Just like inside the house, every horizontal surface- the patios, decks, chairs, tables, benches, stairs, and the ground-becomes a magnet for everything that never quite made it back into the house, garage, or potting shed. These things have a way of becoming ‘invisible’ the longer they remain in place. Clutter doesn’t have to be trash. It can consist of items that are out of place, such as bicycles and toys lying on the lawn, a hose abandoned in a flowerbed, or a mish mash collection of flowerpots holding dead plants stacked on the porch.
No matter how nice your outdoor furniture is or how well maintained the hedges and borders are, if there is a mess lurking in the yard- even around the corner- it’s going to detract from the pleasure of outdoor relaxation and entertaining.
As if our personal flotsam and jetsam weren’t enough, the garden itself generates its own type of clutter. Dead limbs, branches, sticks,leaves rain down throughout the year, especially during the harmattan.
Plants may need decluttering too.
Invasive, poisonous or otherwise obnoxious plants qualify as clutter, as do ornamental plants when too many different kinds of plants are planted without any unifying theme or factor. If the amount of stuff outdoors is causing anxiety, it’s time to declutter
Marie Condo’s Method: Declutter by Category Not By Area.
Let’s approach this, the way Kondo would. While we are used to tackling the shed for example- She recommends a different approach. She says you should go through your possessions by category: tools, containers, seasonal furniture-rather than by (garden)room. Chances are items in a category are scattered throughout multiple areas and are best assessed and purged as a group. For example, gather all of your pots and containers and deal with them all at once, getting rid of duplicates and broken items you no longer use need to go.
In the garden, “go” is more complicated when your clutter is rooted into the garden ground and you probably don’t want to see it in the compost pile. Find friends or neighbors who would take your clutter and make it into their own sparks of joy. By this it’s time to toss those half-dead sickly unattractive plants on the compost pile and tidy up the debris of an unfinished garden project, scraps of wood (“I can do something with that ——— someday1”)
Redefine your Garden Style At this point in the process take advantage to rethink your garden’s planting plan, furniture arrangement and overall feeling you’d like to create. Approach it like decluttering indoors, you don’t have to keep every plant. We have the freedom to get rid of poor performers that give us more angst than joy. As gardeners we are nourishers and that’s why we don’t want to give up on any plant. It’s hard to let go. But it’s OK to dig some up and say goodbye. We have the freedom to change. Perhaps it’s time to prune a mature tree to open up a view of the sky or adopt a more unifying factor than in previous years. For example, a collection of different kind of plants can be unified by color alternatively, varieties of the same plants can be massed together in one place and be usually held together by the leaf type.
Then there are little bits of garden beds here and there, unite them or turn them back to pasture, but don’t have a million little circles to mow around and edge and look distracting, which were not supposed to be in the lawn anyway, but may be we planted some trees and had those round spaces underneath or wanted to display some flowering bulb plants ———- or something that seduced us into cutting little bits of beds. Put an end to the madness, wage war on the work, and unite them in one big bed or mulched area ——- and make it big enough to look like something.
Decluttering the garden means the garden won’t become an overwhelming chore that swallows all our time that we can’t keep up with it’s ever growing demands, for which we don’t have the energy or time (or the back) to keep up the hectic pace. Decluttering the garden means the right plants in the right place in the right-size garden can cut down on maintenance costs and water use. Gardens are by definition, mediation on impermanence. As Hereclitus says, “Everything changes and nothing remains still ——— you cannot step twice into the same stream. ‘Heed Heraclitus’ enigmatic saying and you’ve got the essence of gardening and nature: periods of equilibrium punctuated by change, sometimes fast, sometimes slow. De cluttering our tended gardens is to work in imitation of and in concert with nature. The best gardener has to rethink and renew a garden periodically; sometimes we have to mimic nature’s flood and fires and make a radical shift.
Embrace “Less Is More”
Decluttering is about creating simplicity. If it’s overgrown, cut it back or divide it. If you don’t love or need it, remove it. Respect your tools. The best way to avoid acquiring new tools, containers and furniture is to take care of the ones you already have that serve you well by oiling shovel handles, sharpening blades, dusting off pots, pick up, clean up and keep them neatly away where it is as easy to locate later. Peek in the shed and roll up your sleeve. Kondo recommends keeping items where they can be seen rather than stashed away in storage bins, so that putting them away in the future will take minimal effort. Ideally it should be just as easy to put something away as it is to locate it later. Set up systems now to make it easy to keep them organized in future. For example the easiest place to store waste bins is close to the street, concealed by a structure or clipped hedge. Designate a spot for the bin so that putting them away in the future will take minimal effort. The goal ? for every space in your yard to serve a purpose and every plant and element to spark joy. It’s amazing how much better your outdoor space will look and feel once you’ve decluttered and organized. Before acquiring new plants and accessories, remember Kondo’s underlying philosophy of having only material things that spark joy.
Back to Balance
Define your success by the calm joy you feel walking through the garden. Don’t worry if you’ve made empty spaces. Those are places to invent again and plant new sparks of joy.
De cluttering is not about creating a sterile, manicured space, but bringing balance back to your outdoor space. If pruning isn’t your idea of balance, then identify the plants you love and let them grow wild. If you use pesticides and herbicides, stop so that nature’s rhythms can re-establish themselves. Particularly in small gardens, there is no room for sickly or under performing plants or that just don’t look attractive, or fruit trees that never produced. I’m in agreement with Piet Ouldorf on this: If possible, plants need to look good year round (even when dormant) and they need to provide wildlife habitat.
Re thinking the Garden
Tidy gardens don’t have to look like the Palace of Versailles garden. They’re spaces created consciously, that consume less, hardly need spraying, and are focused upon the joy you get from the plants you love versus all the plants you accumulate.